Service before Self

You guessed it! This one is about my visit to the National Defence Academy. What an experience! Entering the sprawling 8000 acre campus on the outskirts of Pune city is like entering a different world. What I noticed immediately, was the supreme fitness of the people who live here, (Not a spare ounce of flesh-be they equestrian or human) followed at once by a wave of self loathing at my generous proportions.We were escorted around the place by a smiling Naik Subedar, smartly dressed in olive green uniform and beret with a baton tucked under his arm.

The highlight of the visit was of course the tour of Sudan - the regal main building of the NDA. Legend has it that the money for its construction was donated by the Govt. of Sudan as a mark of gratitude for services rendered by the Indian Army during World War II. Within this graceful building is the 'Roll of Honour' - a list of names of all those brave soldiers who have been decorated with gallantry & service awards. Seeing the list of Param Vir Chakra - most given posthumously - was a solemn moment. And naturally, yours truly couldn't hold back the tears.

As we moved out of the building, we noticed a few cadets standing still under the hot midday sun with heavy back packs. When we looked enquiringly at Naik Subedar, he said but one word : Punishment. Punishments at NDA seem to be a way of life. Designed to take the mickey out of you! I was told of 3 types: Run 5 kms with a heavy back pack, run 10 km with a heavy back pack. And here's the best one - the one we witnessed - stand still under the hot sun - with a heavy back pack of course!

Life at NDA is all about rules - some of them are rather quaint. There are these hostels where the cadets live. Apparently, if you belong to one hostel and are passing by another - you cant walk past - you need to take it at a brisk trot - or else face some thrashing at the hands of other cadets who live there. Here's another - cadets never walk, they always march. You're allowed to go shopping at the campus shopping center ( called 'Gol Market' for obvious reasons) only on Wednesdays and Sundays. You cant go alone. You gotta go in groups of four. If you're shopping is done and your group does not have the requisite four persons, you have to wait till it does. No wonder then that a trip to the city is called as 'Liberty'!

The most poignant part of our visit lay in a quiet corner of the massive NDA mess. A remembrance for those soldiers who are prisoners of war - missing in action - a single table, a single rose and an unlit candle to serve as remembrance until they come home....

Before I sign off, I really must put in my two paisa worth of jingoistic nationalism:

These guys - the armed forces - they're phenomenal! Am so proud of them! Tum jeeyo hazaaron saal! (Dammit! I got tears in my eyes again!)

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1 Response to Service before Self

  1. mccbala says:

    Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm... What else can I say?